President's Message: With Millions in New Funding, PPS Cuts Teachers

Dear Educator,

Next year, we expect PPS to have more funding than we have ever seen. So we were shocked to learn this week that instead of taking this opportunity to invest in smaller class sizes and direct supports to students, PPS is planning to cut approximately 120 educators from schools. 

Earlier this month, I wrote about the need for PPS to prioritize stability in our schools. As we plan for next year, PPS has the opportunity to show real leadership in strengthening our school communities– starting with providing enough staff to meet the needs of our students, and to retain our talented educators. 

After the last two years, it is unconscionable to cut staff from our school system. Looking at the numbers, it is also completely unnecessary. 

While PPS wrote to PPS families today about “maintaining” 40 positions, they did not mention the 121 elementary and middle school teacher positions they plan to cut from classrooms across the District. They also failed to mention that there is no budget shortfall necessitating ANY cuts from schools.   

For educators being unassigned from their school communities, and students and families learning of the loss of beloved educators, the news of these cuts is demoralizing, confusing, and destabilizing. 

The District’s rationale for cutting staff from schools is that PPS has fewer students than before the pandemic. In fact, PPS is projecting about 3,400 fewer students next year than pre-pandemic, an 8% difference. Many districts in the state are in the same boat, with about 30,000 fewer students in Oregon public schools than in the 2019-20 school year. 

However, it is a false conclusion that 8% fewer students equals an 8% cut in funding. Here is how school funding works in Oregon: each biennium, lawmakers set aside a given amount of money for the state schools fund, and this amount is divided by the number of students in the state. Because there are fewer students statewide, there is more funding to support each student in the state. PPS is actually projected to receive MORE funding per student from the state school fund next year, and more funding overall, despite the drop in enrollment. 

This gives PPS the opportunity to do exactly what our students and educators need: improve class sizes, reduce caseloads, and add direct supports for students across the district. Instead, the plan they released this week is to cut teachers from elementary and middle schools, allowing class-sizes as high as 29 in Kindergarten.

The District’s plan to cut staff is even more outrageous given all the additional funding coming to the District which can and should be used to reduce class sizes:

The Student Success Act, the result of our collective action, including tens of thousands of educators rallying statewide on May 8, 2019, will bring PPS about $35 million for next school year. These funds are specifically meant to reduce class sizes and support students’ behavioral and mental health needs. 

In addition to that new funding, PPS has received over $116 million in federal ESSR funds, much of which remains unspent. These funds must be used by September, 2024 or be returned to the Department of Education.

On top of federal and state funding, our community has shown up again and again to support schools by voting for the Teachers Levy and the Arts tax, which together provide over $100 million to PPS. Both funds are expressly for the purpose of increasing the number of educators in our schools.

With the combination of all these funds, PPS should be investing in our students by dramatically reducing class sizes and caseloads. Instead, they plan to cut up to $18 million dollars in direct services to students, in a system that is already stretched beyond the breaking point. 

Of course, if PPS really does believe it is necessary to implement budget cuts in our district despite all this new funding, schools and classrooms are the LAST place they should cut. 

Our students deserve a district that puts direct services to students FIRST.

 

In Solidarity,

Elizabeth Thiel

PAT President

What Happens if I am Unassigned?

This week, PPS started the staffing process by releasing initial staffing allocations to schools. Some schools and programs are seeing a reduction of staff, potentially resulting in unassignments.

Your PAT/PPS contract (Article 18) provides a process for determining which educator(s) will be “unassigned” from their current worksite, as well as procedures for their transfer to another site/program.  

An unassignment does not mean that the educator loses a job at PPS.  It simply means they will be transferred and assigned to a different position.

In general, the least senior educator licensed in the affected subject area will be unassigned. However, there are some important exceptions:

  • The administrator must first ask for volunteers. Volunteers will be unassigned and transferred instead if they are appropriately licensed in the affected grade level or subject matter area (and are not on a Program of Assistance).
  • The administrator may request an exception to retain educators of color to maintain a racial balance of educators to students at the site.
  • The administrator may request an exception to maintain a gender balance of educators at the site.
  • The administrator may request an exception to retain an educator with bilingual or multilingual ability relevant to the assignment.

Unassigned educators are eligible to apply for vacant positions during the internal transfer process. All unassigned educators in a subject area must be assigned before PPS may consider any outside applicants.

Here is the timeline (dates are subject to change):

  • PPS Informational Meeting for Unassigned Educators (details to follow) - March 9 at 5:00pm & March 10 at 4:30 pm
  • Internal Phase Vacancies Posted - March 14 - March 18
  • Interviews - March 28-30
  • Remaining Unassigned Educators Notified of Assignments - Mid-April
  • External Phase Opens – Mid-April

Find more information here: 

 

If you are reading this, please click this link to receive a small gift from your PAT Membership Committee, and to be entered in a raffle to win a gift card (1 in 30 chance of winning)!

PAT Scholarships for Future Educators of Color

Here at PAT we want to do all we can to support our BIPOC students and staff who are interested in pursuing a rewarding career in education. PAT will be providing two $6,000 scholarships for future educators of color! 

Do you know a BIPOC PPS Employee who is currently studying to become a fully-licensed educator? Do you know BIPOC PPS students who are interested in attending college and studying to become an educator? Please help us get the word out and share this scholarship information with your staff and students!

PAT Future Educator of Color PPS Employee Scholarship:

Who: ALL Non-PAT member PPS Employees of Color who would like to pursue a college degree & licensure to become a PPS Certified Educator (Teacher, Counselor, Social Worker, School Psychologist, QMHP, School Psychologist, SLP) 

What: $6,000 Scholarship which can be used at any college or university 

Requirements: Scholarship Application, 2 Letters of Recommendation & Official Transcript

Scholarship Application DUE: April 19th, 2022 

See our flyer!

PAT Future Educator of Color PPS Student Scholarship:

Who: ALL PPS High School Seniors who would like to pursue a college degree & licensure to become a PPS Certified Educator (Teacher, Counselor, Social Worker, School Psychologist, QMHP, School Psychologist, SLP) 

What: $6,000 Scholarship which can be used at any college or university 

Requirements: Scholarship Application, 2 Letters of Recommendation & Official Transcript 

Scholarship Application DUE: April 19th, 2022 

See our flyer!

Know Your Contract: Unpaid Leave-- Deadline March 1st

If you are considering taking an Unpaid Leave next year, please review the deadline listed below. (Additional information regarding these unpaid leaves can be found on the PPS website.)

Full-Year Unpaid Leave

March 1st

17.4.1

Requests for a full year unpaid Personal, Exchange, or Career Development leave of absence (whether part-time or full-time) for the next school year must be submitted to Human Resources prior to March 1 or the leave will not be approved, except in extenuating circumstances where such leave requests will not be unreasonably denied.

 

PAT Election Reminder- Vote by February 24th

Don’t forget to vote in the 2022 PAT Elections! Votes must be submitted by Thursday, February 24 at 5:00 PM. The ballot lists candidates for PAT President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, Executive Board Directors, OEA RA delegates, and NEA RA delegates. If you have not received your ballot (sent to your PPS email address), or if you are not a member and would like to join so that you may vote, please contact [email protected]

PAT PAC Makes Early Endorsements for May Primary

The PAT Political Action Committee is proud to extend an early endorsement to two incumbent Oregon House of Representatives running for re-election. The PAT PAC offers early endorsement only to candidates whom we have endorsed in the past, and who have a strong record for standing up for what we believe in: fully-funded public schools, workers’ rights, racial equity, and social services for children and families. 

We could not be more proud to endorse Representative Khanh Pham and Representative Maxine Dexter. Read more below.

HOUSE DISTRICT 46: KHANH PHAM

As a long-time community advocate, Khanh Pham believes that the best policy work is accomplished with input from our communities. She is a working mom, a PPS parent, and a relentless advocate for the diverse communities of the Jade District. In Salem, she is a leader in Oregon's transition to a renewable economy, and will fight for the revenue reform we need to build a more just society.

HOUSE DISTRICT 33: MAXINE DEXTER

Maxine Dexter is a Pulmonary and Critical Care doctor, a first-generation college graduate, and a PPS parent. Having grown up lacking resources, she attributes her own success to her public school teachers, and to a union job which allowed her to fund her own education. In Salem, she is a powerful advocate for public health and affordable health care, revenue reform to fully fund public services, and labor rights.  

The PAT PAC is funded entirely through member contributions, not through dues dollars. Learn more about the PAT PAC here.

Get Involved: Join us at the OEA PAC Convention

Registration for the OEA-PAC Convention is still open. Register Now!

This year’s OEAC-PAC Convention will be held virtually, February 18th and 19th.  Educators from around the state will vote to determine which candidates OEA-PAC will support.

Candidates for the following offices will be seeking our endorsement at the convention:

  • All six US Congressional Districts
  • US Senator
  • Oregon Governor
  • Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner

Anyone who contributes to OEA-PAC is welcome to attend the convention; if you are not a current donor and wish to attend, make a contribution today at:Join the PAC !

Congratulations Promising Practices Grant Recipients

Each Year OEA awards Promising Practices Grants to members to support student learning or professional development. This year’s recipients are:

Sarah Parker:  Sarah is a special education elementary teacher at Parry Center Edwards. Sarah’s $600 grant will be used to buy iPads to personalize student learning with math problem solving games, puzzles, and phonemic awareness.

Heather Noble: Heather is a music teacher at Sitton Elementary school. Heather’s $800 grant will be used to purchase Ukuleles for her elementary students. Ukuleles are one of the best stringed instruments for beginners. She will teach them how to play and write songs.

Steven Geiszler: Steven is a multiple pathways teacher at Rosemary Anderson High School.  Steven’s $600 grant will be used to teach a unit on healthy nutrition. The grant will purchase food and journals. Using the students' cultures, this unit will teach students about healthy food options to share with their own families.

Congratulations to all grant recipients and the students they are reaching through these grants. Look for the Promising Practices Grant application next year and consider applying yourself.

Rethinking Schools- Climate Justice Workshop

Teaching Climate Disobedience: A Workshop Featuring the New Documentary, Necessity: Climate Justice & the Thin Green Line

  • February 24, 2022, 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM (via Zoom)

This workshop is built around the new film, Necessity: Climate Justice & the Thin Green Line, which examines stories of climate resistance in the Pacific Northwest. Tribal leaders, Indigenous activists, and their non-Indigenous allies, resist oil trains and trucks and, in one key case, are arrested for a direct action at Zenith Energy in Portland. Those arrested — including long-time PPS teacher and activist, Jan Zuckerman — mobilize the “necessity defense” to argue their actions were justified to stop an immediate and grave danger. Workshop participants will engage with short excerpts of the film, writing activities, and structured conversations to think together about how we might bring the film — and the larger theme of climate disobedience — into our classrooms, curricula, and communities. Register here for a Zoom link. 

Workshop leaders: Tim Swinehart, Lincoln High School; and Ursula Wolfe-Rocca, Rethinking Schools and the Zinn Education Project. Sponsored by the PPS Climate Justice Committee and the Portland Association of Teachers.

Saturday, February 19th: Thurgood Production: Affinity Night for Educators of Color

PAT’s Social Justice and Community Outreach Committee invites BIPOC educators this Saturday, to Portland Playhouse's BIPOC Affinity Night production of Thurgood.

Please register here to secure your PAT-sponsored ticket for the in-person Affinity Night production Saturday, February 19th, 7:30pm.

Portland Playhouse is dedicating performances to patrons who identify as BIPOC to, “be in a space that centers the experience of a person from the Global Majority in our theatre which, like much of American theatre, has been mostly occupied by white people.” 

This is an in-person production. Please click here for a description of the show. Portland Playhouse is located at 602 NE Prescott Street.

(For any PPS educator: please register here for a shared PAT-sponsored Zoom viewing of “Thurgood”, date to be announced.)